Since the dawn of time people have read, studied andenjoyedbooks in which the hero or heroes fall from grace. No matter whothose heroes are- the human race in The Bible,the demon prince Lestatin Anne Rice’s “Vampire Chronicles”or a certain Thane of Cawdor in”Macbeth”- sin plays a greatpart in all of their downfalls andsubsequent ressurections. And the three main characters inHawthorne’s “The ScarletLetter”-Dimmesdale, Chillingsworth, andHester Prynne- are no different. All three characters are flung fromthe normal rolesthat society has laid upon them- minister, housewife,doctor-into new roles- sinner, whore, and vengance crazedsadist.
These new roles are not necessarily apparent to all intown. However, even though the townspeople do not know ofthesinners, God does. And in God’s eyes, whose sin was greater?That,I cannot answer. But in this mere mortal’s opinion, thesin ofChillingsworth far outdid the sin of Dimmesdale orHester Prynne, forChillingsworth’s sin was one of revengeand one of secrecy.
He was notdriven by an anger at his ownsin, but by the sin of others. He useddeception andmanipulation to make the life of another miserable. Hewasnot flung from society’s view as if he were a dirty secretlike Hesterwas; he was embraced by it. However, his sin didtake it’s toll. He wasdisfigured horribly and became atwisted man, scarred by sin.Order now
He alsowas robbed of thepleasure of destroying Dimmesdale which was hisreason forliving. He died shortly after Dimmesdale. Hester Prynne,however, was the complete opposite ofChillingworth in that her singave her life, not destroyedit. She took her punishment and embracedit, using it torebuild herself not as a pathetic sinner, but as a pseudo-saint. At first, the town shunned her as a sinner.
However,after theysaw that she was good, and her sin was of love,the same townembraced and loved her. Her sin drew her moredeeply into the societyof Boston than she ever was before. And when her time to die came,she did so with honor. HesterPrynne – sinner and saint.
However,Hester’s sin was shared. Whereas she was asinner on the outside and asaint on the inside, ArthurDimmesdale is the reverse, both literallyand figuratively. On the outside, a town minister, inside an adulterer. Of allthe characters, Dimmesdale is the most pitiful. A man sopenitentthat he whips himself, but so afraid that he cannotconfess his sin; asin which takes a great toll on him.
Hiscountenance is disfigured inthe shape of what we assume tobe an A on his chest (that or a cowshaped birthmark) and hissoul is eaten by his guilt. Arthur does laterconfess, and aweight is lifted from his being. And with that weightgone hefinally dies in peace. Sin has always been and will always bea part of human life and literature.
And as long as there is sin, peoplewillreact to it in different ways; some will hide it, some willembrace it,some will rot from it. But no matter how the sin is handled or dealtwith, it will always leave it’s mark. Forme, the mark of sin will alwaysbe symbolized as a scarlet A on a black background. ————————————————————–